One morning I lose the hearing in one ear and Maria says that maybe I will start hearing more interesting things out of that ear. I used to think that deafness would mean absolute silence, but I read somewhere that often the deaf have auditory hallucinations—ringing noises, the sound of movement, people now long gone who keep calling out to them like echoes.
Sam and Dan once agreed that if they had to choose between deafness and blindness, they would choose blindness. They didn’t want to lose music. I am always horrified at games of choice. I never play games that can come true. I most fear blindness because of books. I remember always that Twilight Zone with the man alone in the universe with all the time to read and then his glasses break. These are the things that keep me up at night.
There is a hallucination that can happen to the blind where they see spaces around them visualized within their heads. These spaces, though, are hell-scape versions of the spaces they are actually in—every building is abandoned, attics are filled with ghosts, all the furniture in every room is always broken.
There is a myth that losing one sense makes other senses heightened. The ears picking up sounds from farther away, the tongue noticing subtle alterations in the marinara. People who experiences auras have talked about the way that senses become more finely attuned during the event. Once while stirring a bourbon custard to make into ice cream, I saw the colors of a room bleed out around me. Sound dropped in and out, like shouting at someone across a lake. But, the smell was intoxicating—sweet and sharp and warm.
Sometimes taste lets us down. The beautifully iced cake at the wedding tastes solely of sugar, the pasta sauce that has been simmering for hours has too much wine in it, the childhood-beloved wafer cookies taste stale as an adult. I often dream of the cakes of my youth. Cherry Chantilly and Rainbowed-Chocolate Torte and the Black Bottom Cupcakes eaten in a restaurant with a staircase that seemed to end suddenly with a wall. I have trained my tongue to make five different shapes, learned the muscles one can use in the mouth. Yet has this done anything for taste? The sense of taste is the strongest in my dreams whereas, often, I can feel nothing.
Some fabrics make my skin crawl—the scritchy dress shirt, the too dry feel of some cheap sheets, the cotton balls pinched between fingers which makes my skin feel like fingernails on chalkboard make my ears feel. Some people lack the ability to feel immediate changes in temperature. I have held my hand accidentally against a woodstove and grabbed cookie sheets out of an oven without mitt. The burn slowly blossoming across skin, pale to red. I have more scars on my hands than anywhere else on my body. The things I have felt in the world that I would regret losing include: the bellies of toads, the wings of bats, the skin of a snake, the buckets of micro-beads that I have sunk my arms into, the back of a dogs ear, the riffle shuffle of a new deck of cards, creek mud after the first thaw.
In a dream once, I was walking in a bone-filled version of the valley behind my family’s house. The trees all had names that I couldn’t remember. The caves were filled with ghosts who beckoned to me with outstretched arms. There was a man doing magic tricks at the center of everything. I sat down to watch and volunteered when he asked for an assistant. One by one the trick removed my senses: touch, then taste, then smell, then sight, and lastly sound. I woke up dizzied with fever and begged to have it all back, unable to remember what the moment of having nothing had felt like but sure that it must have felt like something.